20th Street Elementary School

Parent centers proliferating at LAUSD, leading to better test scores, attendance and engagement

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One of the most popular classes at 20th Street Elementary School has 43 dedicated students who come twice a week.

They’re all parents.

The parents of this 600-student school just south of downtown Los Angeles come here to learn English. They do projects for teachers. They discuss school issues. Their children even help them with their English homework. And it’s all taking place at one of the most active rooms on campus: the parent center.

LA Unified officials, board member Monica Garcia and about 50 parents gathered Tuesday to dedicate the new parent center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and student performances. The ceremony also marked a healing of sorts among divided parents who had twice moved to use a “parent trigger,” a California law that allows parents to take over a failing school.

District officials and the school board have come to realize that encouraging more parent centers on school campuses leads to more community engagement, higher attendance and eventually better test scores and higher graduation rates.

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California ‘Parent Trigger’ Battle Ends in Compromise

By Jenni White

California’s 20th Street Elementary School will be under new management this fall after a group of parents used the state’s Parent Empowerment Act, also known as the “parent trigger” law.

California’s 20th Street Elementary School will be under new management this fall after a group of parents used the state’s Parent Empowerment Act, also known as the “parent trigger” law, to reach an agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

California’s parent trigger law allows parents dissatisfied with their children’s low-performing school to sign a petition to intervene by  “replacing all or some of the staff, turning the school over to a charter operator, transforming it through some programs, or closing the school altogether,” according to the California Department of Education website.

The first “trigger” 20th Street parents pulled on LAUSD in 2014 led to an agreement with the district to provide several concessions to improve the floundering school. Parents were not satisfied with the district’s level of fulfillment of its promises, and they filed a second parent trigger petition in February 2016, which 262 parents signed. The district initially rejected the second petition, saying it wasn’t valid because the district is exempt from using the performance measurement the petition requested.

The two sides reached a deal in July, avoiding a lawsuit. Accepting the district’s concession 20th Street would not become an independent charter school, parents chose to join the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit organization that manages 17 other Los Angeles schools. In a press release, LAUSD said, “The Partnership is dedicated to bringing additional resources to high-need schools and generating innovative solutions that can be implemented districtwide.”

Persistence Seen as Key

Gabe Rose—chief strategy officer of Parent Revolution, the group that helped organize the petition drive to activate both parent trigger campaigns—says parents had to keep pushing the district to provide results.

“We first met some of the 20th Street parents back in March 2014, when they approached us asking for help,” Rose said. “They were very frustrated with their school’s performance, but they felt like they hadn’t been able to get the district to make changes on their own. We’ve been working with them and helping them ever since.”

Rose says the second petition was necessary, because after the district “[promised] parents the moon, everything felt like business as usual.”

Parent Victory

Rose says the parent trigger parents are satisfied with the agreement.

Partnership for Los Angeles Schools is an organization that runs schools within LAUSD; [it] has a proven track record of raising achievement at the lowest-performing schools in LAUSD, where they currently run 17 schools,” Rose said. “It is empowered to manage the day-to-day instructional program at the school. Parents wanted new management for the school that could deliver on promises of change, and they believe that is what they have now.”

‘Parents Back in Charge’

Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, says the parent trigger law gives parents the power they deserve.

“The beauty of the law is that it takes teachers unions out of the picture and puts parents back in charge,” Sand said. “Instead of bureaucrats and union bosses making decisions about a child’s education, it puts parents front and center.”

Sand says the parent trigger law also functions as a spur for change.

“It’s sad it has to come to that, but if a school has become complacent, a [parent trigger] jolt may be just what the doctor ordered,” Sand said. “Parent Empowerment threatens the education status quo, and that’s just what a sclerotic system needs.”

Jenni White (jlwplusdmw@gmail.comwrites from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Originally posted at The Heartland Institute.

L.A. School District Meets With Parents in Effort to Calm Anxiety After Rejecting Parent Trigger Petition

By The 74 and the LA School Report

About 100 parents from Los Angeles’ 20th Street Elementary School met Tuesday night in the school auditorium with more than a dozen school administrators after the district denied a “parent trigger” that would allow them to make sweeping changes to the school. (Read more about the denial, which casts doubt over the state’s “parent trigger” law)

“It was like a big cheerleading session,” said parent Omar Cavillo, who is on the school site council and the English Learner Advisory Committee and one of the parents who started the petition drive under the state’s Parent Empowerment Act. The act, also known as parent trigger, is geared toward underperforming schools so that parents can force changes in instruction and personnel or even create a charter school.

The Parents Union tried for nearly three years to make changes at the school and threatened to file a parent trigger petition last year but withdrew it when the district promised to make changes. They filed in February after they said no changes were made this school year, and they were equally underwhelmed at Tuesday’s meeting.

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